The blurb on the back of this book made me immediately want to buy this and read it – a man struggling with both the loss of someone close to him, and also struggling with his health and appearance – he’s extremely overweight and feels alienated from his family. I felt like I would be able to empathise a lot with him, and I was right, to an extent.
It turns out that the loss that Billy is struggling with is the loss of his son to suicide, and the emotions laid out in the book are so raw that my heart broke multiple times. It was so much more than I ever expected from the book. You can feel the grief rolling off the family. The expression of grief is different for each person, but it’s real and it’s heart-breaking.
Referred to from the start as ‘Big Billy’, our main character’s weight has become his identity, but he decides that in order to raise money for suicide awareness, he’s going to try and lose half his bodyweight and ask people to sponsor him. Unfortunately, the loss of Michael is still so fresh that his family find it very hard to get behind him, and I spent most of the time reading the book wishing that Billy wasn’t so alone.
There were also definitely times that I wanted to give him a shake and tell him to stop acting so stupidly and be with his family and be what his family needed, but I could definitely see how this single-minded focus was helping to heal some of the grief.
Without going into too much detail to give away spoilers, I will say that Billy was such an inspiring character, and has given me the kick I needed to start taking care of myself again. Like Billy, I’ve been really struggling the last couple of years with loss and I’ve stopped taking care of myself because it just hasn’t felt ‘worth it’, but through Billy’s story, I can see that I am worth it and I need to make some changes – maybe not quite as dramatic as Billy though!
One thing I wish from the book is that there had been more exploration of the other characters. As I mentioned before, the grief is affecting them all in different ways, but I would have loved to dive deeper into that and maybe see how Billy’s mission was affecting them from their point of view.
As I said, this book has affected me quite a lot, and I think it will be on my mind for a long time – if I can only be half as brave as Billy was, I’ll be happy.